Parrandas-style celebration nursing home with music

WEBSTER — Josefa Pedraza-Cotto said that hearing the traditional Puerto Rican songs from Trio Los Arpegios at Hill Haven nursing home transported her to her native island.

"I am Puerto Rican," said Pedraza-Cotto, who has lived at Hill Haven for a year. "The nostalgia … it makes me happy."

As she walked out of the recreation room, she hugged Belen Colón and thanked her for bringing in the trio to play música tipíca for the residents. The Nov. 25 event marked the second year that Colón brought in musicians for the parrandas-style celebration. Parrandas is the Puerto Rican version of caroling.

She brought traditional instruments for the residents — including maracas and the guirro (made from a gourd) — to play as they sang along to the music. She also walked around to dance with some of the participants who were in wheelchairs as well as with staff.

"This is wonderful," Joann Taranto, who has been at Hill Haven since the beginning of the year, said as she played the guirro. "Everybody loves it. There’s something about music."

Kathleen Vanacken, manager of the recreation department, said that music is powerful and even residents who aren’t Spanish-speaking enjoy the music. About 12 percent of Hill Haven’s 288 residents are Latino, she said.

While music programs in general are popular, something special happens when residents have an ethnic connection, added Vanacken.

"Some people who don’t respond a lot, hear their own music and we get more of a response," she said.

To that end, the trio also stopped in to visit a resident who could not come down to the recreation room. For him, they sang "Mi Viejo San Juan" ("My Ol’ San Juan").

This year’s presentation was more of a scaled-down version than in past years, noted Silvia Lorenzo-Colòn, a recreation therapy aide. One year featured local band Calle Ocho, she said. And two years in a row, the residents helped her mother make desserts and empanadas, Lorenzo-Colón said.

But no matter what, the residents love the music, she added.

"It’s fantastic," said Pedraza-Cotto.

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